China’s Secret Biotech Work

As US intelligence struggles to identify exactly origins of the SARS-COV2 (COVID-19) virus in China, there are other good reasons to be concerned about Chinese biotechnology work that could be used against us and our allies in a crisis or conflict.

Indeed, the recent State Department report report in Congress on Arms Control, Non-Proliferation, and Disarmament Treaties and Agreements expresses continued concern about China’s compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention.

While the Biological Weapons Convention allows member states to engage in peaceful research (e.g. vaccine development) to counter and protect against microbial and biological agents and toxins, it prohibits their development, possession, storage or use for offensive (military) purposes.

With concern, the State Department writing:

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) continued its dual-use activities [i.e., civilian and/or military use] requests, raising concerns about its compliance with Article I of the BTWC.

Further, the United States does not have sufficient information to determine whether the PRC has eliminated its historic assessed biological warfare (BW) program, as required by Article II of the Convention.

According to the State Department’s April report reportChina, which joined the Biological Weapons Convention in 1984, had a biological weapons program from the 1950s to the late 1980s that should have been halted, diverted or destroyed upon joining the convention.

To date, Beijing has not acknowledged the existence or current disposition of this Cold War offensive biological program, which armed “ricin, botulinum toxins and causative agents of anthrax, cholera, plague and tularemia.”

Even more alarming, the State The department reports that Beijing Military Medical Institutions have published papers that discuss “the identification, testing, and characterization of various families of potent dual-use toxins.” [civilian/miliary] applications” that could pose a threat to biological weapons.

The State Department report also warnings that more information is provided in a “higher classification annex”, which means there may be a wealth of detail that will not be made public as the analysis is based on sensitive intelligence sources and methods .

Equally disturbing, beijing postponed a virtual bilateral meeting related to the Biological Weapons Convention in 2021 with the United States and canceled a similar meeting in early 2022. Such actions do not inspire confidence in the age of COVID-19 and our rival relationship with Beijing.

The PentagonThe Congressional Annual Report to Congress in late 2021 on China’s military power also expresses concern, writing that: “The [People’s Republic of China] continues to develop its biotechnology infrastructure and pursue its scientific cooperation with countries of concern.

The Pentagon report also highlights Chinese developments in high technology and its potential military applications. This concern includes biotechnologyparticularly in the sub-fields of precision medicine, biological warfare, soldier performance enhancement, and human-machine association.

Although not directed solely against China, the Director of National Intelligence’s 2022 Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community amplifies the Pentagon’s warning, writing:

Rapid advances in dual-use technologies, including bioinformatics, synthetic biology and gene editing, could enable the development of new biological weapons that complicate detection, attribution and treatment.

Although U.S. government details are few in the public sphere, likely due to understandable classification restrictions, the general overview of Chinese military and civilian biotech dual-use efforts and cooperation is deeply disturbing.

While incredibly important, it is not just Beijing’s lack of transparency about the origins of COVID-19 in China that should concern us today.

The reported work and potential intent of China’s civil and military biological research and technology business could also be a key driver of growth. threatens that China poses to the United States, its allies and friends now – and perhaps even more in the future.

This piece originally appeared in The daily signal

Maria D. Ervin